Betting on the House: Subjective Expectations and Market Choices

Nicolas L. Bottan, Ricardo Perez-Truglia

NBER Working Paper No. 27412
Issued in June 2020
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing, Corporate Finance, International Finance and Macroeconomics

Home price expectations play a central role in macroeconomics and finance. However, there is little direct evidence on how these expectations affect market choices. We provide the first experimental evidence based on a large-scale, high-stakes field experiment in the United States. We provided information by mail to 57,910 homeowners who recently listed their homes on the market. Collectively, these homes were worth $34 billion dollars. We randomized the information contained in the mailing to create non-deceptive, exogenous variation in the subjects’ home price expectations. We then used rich administrative data to measure the effects of these information shocks on the subject’s market choices. We find that, consistent with economic theory, higher home price expectations caused the subjects to delay selling their homes. These effects are statistically highly significant, economically large in magnitude, and robust to a number of sharp checks. Our results indicate that market choices are highly elastic to expectations: a 1 percentage point increase in home price expectations reduced the probability of selling within six months by 2.45 percentage points. Moreover, we provide evidence that this behavioral elasticity would be even higher if it were not for the presence of optimization frictions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27412

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